Why The Hell Does Everyone Hate “The Babadook?”

The Most Divisive Horror Film in Recent Memory Laid Bare

Critical acclaim and the horror genre have not historically gone hand in hand, with even the most mainstream hits of the genre, Oscar winners like The Exorcist and Jaws, having had a real tendency to be looked down upon in comparison to their more traditional contemporaries. Part of this is undeniablly horrors own fault; the greats in the genre have always had the misfortune of being diluted with piles of steaming shit, more so than most other types of film.

But all of that just means when a horror movie does break into the realm of acclaim, it’s a real reason to celebrate. It’s just not very often that our genre gets its time in the spotlight. Thankfully this long standing stigma has began to loosen in the last few years, and a larger number than ever of horror movies are achieving real success, going beyond their niche fandom and forging critical buzz in their own right. Now let’s look at The Babadook, one of the first of this new wave of acclaimed genre filmmaking, the film that in 2014, really took the horror world by storm.

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     A heart tearing look at depression, loss, and all-encompassing grief through the eyes of a widow, The Babadook is a truly masterful work. Receiving a nearly unprecedented 86 on Metacritic, it was also the first horror film in a long time that really made the academic crowd collectively drop their monocle in shock. Here was something they thought would never come around; a genre flick that was beautiful, well acted, directed with an experts eye, and perhaps most importantly, supremely intelligent.

           The Babadook’s unique look at grief, shown as the top hat bearing monster Mister Babadook, is a all encompassing monster, a blackness that swallows souls and leaves victims as empty shells. Such poignancy and intellect is oftentimes unknown in a genre where garbage like The Gallows makes $40,000,000, which is one of the many reasons why The Babadook was the success story it ended up being.

           And yet, it is also a film that many horror fans not only disliked, but absolutely loathed. Dull, over hyped, over rated piece of shit, and many nastier words have all been thrown at The Babadook, often with little or no direction. I remember one conversation in particular I had with one horror loving individual, who I’ll call Dan.

Dan:”You know, I really fucking hated The Babadook. Piece of shit was boring as hell, worst horror film I’ve ever seen.”

Me: “Eh I loved it, but whatever. What didn’t you like about it?”

Dan: “What are you fucking stupid? Any person who fucking knows horror knows that fucking film was a piece of goddamn shit! I mean, fuck Jeff, are you a fucking inbred or something?”

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   That type of hostility surrounded  the reactions I got from most people on The Babadook, one side of the fence or the other. People either loved this movie, or they just couldn’t fucking stand it, and anyone who didn’t share their opinion was an idiot that didn’t know horror and may or may not deserve to be hung by the neck. First off, let me just say how toxic this sentiment is; no one’s taste in film decides whether or not their parents were brother and sister, and using hate speech doesn’t make your point any more valid; it just helps tear the horror loving community apart. And second off, I can definitely see why this is a film that’s not for everyone.

         As a horror critic and genre fan in general,  I’m walking on a thin line by saying this, but here goes; while I don’t consider the horror fans dumb, nor do I consider fans of “fine cinema” necessarily more intelligent, I do believe that The Babadook does require a deeper level of thinking to enjoy than your average horror film. Now before you chase me with pitchforks and yell hurtful slurs over the internet, I’m not calling people who didn’t dig The Babadook idiots. I will say though, most horror films are not exactly intellectually stimulating. This is a genre where for every symbolic masterpiece like The Shining there are a dozen Friday the 13th sequels. And guess what? I fucking love both of those goddamn movies.

           But what I’m not going to do is sit here and tell you there’s a deeper meaning to watch Jason Vorhee’s throw a bitch out a window, because there’s not. The Friday the 13th movies, and most slashers, appeal to our visceral lust for sex and violence more than our desire to see master class storytelling. The same thing goes for films loaded with jump scares; the Paranormal Activity franchise has made millions by basically repeating the same tale over and over, just with the ghosts popping out in new ways and at different times.

          That’s why The Babadook has proven to be so divisive; it’s an intelligent movie in a genre that tends to be filled with stupid ones. Now that’s not saying it’s wrong to like stupid movies, or right to like smart movies; just like whatever the fuck you like. I love horror of all kind, but I don’t begrudge anyone of their taste in entertainment.

          Now what I don’t think is ok to do is go online and be an absolute ass-hat, calling people names and acting holier than thou because of differing opinions. For you guys who don’t like The Babadook; no problem. As a critic, I encourage you to try and figure out why you didn’t like it on a deeper level than just “it fucking sucked”, but if you choose not to, whatever, I don’t really give a shit. It’s a free country and your free to justify your opinions however you wish. For those of you who liked it; shoving the film down people’s throats is just going to make them hate it more; express your opinion and be done with it.

           What all of us horror movie fans do need is an end all this ridiculous in-fighting. Debating is fine, but insulting and belittling one another does nothing but make the horror loving community even more toxic. There’s enough people already who see horror movie lovers as weirdos and freak. Horror fans certainly don’t need to be contributing to any more of this nonsensical middle school bullying; that’s a sentiment I think we can all get behind.

Jeff is a writer for The Bloodshed who eats, drinks, and bleeds horror. He’s also the President of low budget horror studio Head On A Stick Productions.  You can contact HOASP at HeadOASP@gmail.com

24 Comments on this post.

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  • Zaxxon Q Blaque
    7 March 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    For me, it felt less like a horror movie and more like a really intense Lifetime movie. Not scary, just kind of ‘meh’.

    • Jeffrey Scott
      7 March 2016 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      To each his own mate

  • Andrew French
    7 March 2016 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    Bizarre. My friends and I who are all big fans of the horror genre *loved* the Babadook.

    • Jeffrey Scott
      8 March 2016 at 6:15 pm - Reply

      I did too. A lot of contesting opinions though

  • Rhett
    7 March 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    As a horror fan, I love slasher flicks and boobs as much as the next guy. It means I don’t really have to think much, just enjoy the gorefest. However, I loved the Babadook. To me it was what original horror films were about. It made you uncomfortable and unsafe. There is absolutely nothing wrong with horror movies that make you think.

  • Matthew Myers
    7 March 2016 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    The Babadook was a great film. A lot of people didn’t like it because they think horror is all about blood and gore, and the film was psychologically scary. Many horror fans loved it, but just as many hated it, didn’t appreciate it for what it was, or relate to the family situation. That’s why they attack the film, and say that it sucks.

  • george ulrich
    7 March 2016 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    Well I would just like to say this….I watched it once and had to watch it again! Cause not many horror films make ya think! Yea it was t traditional and I applaud that!

  • Anna Christini
    7 March 2016 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    You’re my hero man. Well said.

  • Tom Kinnee
    8 March 2016 at 2:03 am - Reply

    I think “The Babadook” is a welcome return to the Val Lewton school of horror — an emphasis on subtlety, psychological complexity and imagery that creeps you out on a much deeper longer-lasting level than mere visceral gross-out.

  • Casey
    8 March 2016 at 3:54 am - Reply
  • Mats
    8 March 2016 at 6:24 am - Reply

    To understand why anyone hates a horror movie, we must understand what a horror movie is, and why people watch it.

    I often run the analogy that horror movies are like porn, and when it comes to porn, everyone has their own thing.

    When someone takes “your thing” and does a twist with it and does something you do not like at all, then you ruin “your thing”. It damages that one setup that you go back to over and over, and it always triggers your fear gland.

    My favorite type of horror movies is scary house films, with proper film camera usage, and the agitator being some “evil” spirit that is explained as such. With this in mind, I hate housebound. The spirit turned out to be good, it was a scoobydo’esk twist, and the characters were not “innocents” that I felt were undeserving of the horrors they encountered. This twist on my favorite horror trope made me hate the movie.

    I had the same problem with Babadook. Characters are unlikeable; the kid is a brat, and the mother is no better. Some people say that this is “real” but if I can suspend my belief of evil spirits, I can also suspend my belief of a perfect family. The end also shows them winning over the evil spirit and enslaving it. This grinds me the wrong way; I like my endings to be escapes, and the evil remaining unconquerable. (I guess that is the Lovecrafting in me.)

    So I guess what I am saying is that I like what I like, and I do not like it when you mess with what I like. Don’t harass people for what horror they like, any more than you should complain about what porn people like. You cannot change it, we are frightened by what we are frightened by, if you present something as “it” and its not it, people will be frustrated.

  • Shawnna
    8 March 2016 at 8:14 am - Reply

    I really loved what you said here, and as someone who LOVES horror but can’t stand torture or gore…it sometimes makes this genre super hard for me to stand. My favorite type of horror are the ones that are well thought out, has an actual plot and storyline and has a line of thought that can be followed or at least at some point be understood. I think everyone has a right to dislike or like what they want, but I do agree a lot of horror movies are just stupid now and have no real point but to shock!

    • Jeffrey Scott
      8 March 2016 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks you for your kind words Shawna. While I do enjoy gore movies, I also have always been a fan of more intelligent horror films as well. I’m glad you say everyone is entitiled to their own opinion. That’s the main point I tried to get across in this article

  • Mercat
    8 March 2016 at 9:24 am - Reply

    I feel the hype, being the blogs and the like saying this movie is the scariest movie of the year is what caused some people to dislike it. I didn’t really care for it at first because of this. I was honestly expecting it to keep me up at night, it did not. If you can take away the expectations and enjoy it for what it was then it can be enjoyable. There are so many different kind of horrors that to label a movie as “horror” and then try to compare a “slasher” horror film to a “suspense” horror really isn’t fair.

  • J Bronson
    8 March 2016 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    the babadook was an amazing film. from the claustrophobic cinematography, the creepy music, the great acting on the part of mom, the aspect of insanity. there are too many gem qualities to list. the movie felt like a story straight from H. P. Lovecraft, the unequivocal master of horror.

    that being said, I don’t think I could watch it more than once.

  • wcme
    8 March 2016 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    This and IT FOLLOWS were the two biggest wastes of time of last Halloweens viewing. Both made no sense at all; even after the credits rolled. When you are so clever I have to go to Wikipedia and forums to tell me what was really going on, thats a failure. Both needed someone to stand for a second and speak allowed (for it follows) “this is the ancient demon HEXAGEX. Its a myan demon that was cursed after as a human he fell in love with the myan queen and was put to death because it was outside of wedlock. Now to save yourself you have to pass fwd the sex as has been done since ancient times to prevent him from killing you” or SOME origin otherwise its just no rules, no weaknesses, no limits to powers and no history (see: JEPPERS CREEPERS). BADADOOK suffers from what they did at the end of PSYCHO – you need someone to come out and describe the psychological manifestation that was going on, how it occurs, and what defeated it and how its being dealt with. Otherwise – credits roll – What the hell was that bs? real or not real? Explain please

    • Jeffrey Scott
      8 March 2016 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      I think a lack of explanation is what made both of those films powerful

    • Weasel
      9 March 2016 at 9:21 am - Reply

      If you’re the kind of person who needs that kind of explicit exposition, then The Babadook is definitely not going to be your cup of tea.

      Not sure what you mean about Psycho, though. That movie makes it pretty clear that Norman Bates has some mommy issues, what with the mummified corpse & all.

      If psychological horror is not for you (the uncertainty is a necessary component, as it helps create feelings of dread & anxiety), maybe pick a genre that spells it all out for you.

  • Colin
    8 March 2016 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    I have always thought that a lot of people who don’t like “The Babadook”, are just expressing the nameless fear that it creates in the watcher. It’s new and real and scary – those are hard feelings for a lot of us to express, let alone acknowledge. “It sucks!!!” Is easier.

  • Zaxxon Q Blaque
    8 March 2016 at 8:58 pm - Reply
  • JD
    8 March 2016 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    I found The Babadook to be an intense thought provoking thriller. It not only had the aspects of a slow burn thriller but the the jumps and scares that made you wonder if just watching it invited baddies to creep p behind you in the dark.

    My friend Drew came over to watch it with me. He is a film student and a horror buff and he hated it. He felt it tried too hard to deliver tension and equally felt that it it failed to deliver.

    In short I loved it and Drew hated it. Just what you pointed out here.

    When my site is back up you can see my full review from Christmas 2015. Sites down now due to hackers. Will be back after the 11th.

  • Linda Masoner
    9 March 2016 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    I can’t and won’t say that I hate the movie. I did like it a lot but I will say for something dark, it scared the shit out of me. I do want to watch it again but I think I will wait till I’m not about to go to bed.

  • Eric
    12 August 2016 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    It’s a fantastic horror movie. It took us to fresh places. 4/4!

  • Priestess of Hell
    13 August 2016 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    I did not like it at all. Personally I felt the acting was over-the-top and the story dry. It was apparent to me immediately how the story was going to go and what “The Babadook” represented. I liked how it showed humanity in a different light, but other than that there was so much more I felt it needed. All in all it was not a defining film, it was not as wonderful as people made it to be, but I don’t think it was trash in anyway and I CERTAINLY don’t think that people that like it don’t understand horror or should be called idiots or shit-heads or whatever. The film does require a certain understanding to really get but I felt like it didn’t do the concept well. I did enjoy aspects, but there was more wrong with it in my eyes then there was perfectly done.

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